Shane Stapleton reflects on the Munster senior hurling championship of Cork and Tipperary at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Cork 4-19 Tipperary 2-25
Both unbeaten, each unbowed, neighbours dancing to their own beat, gifting us 70 minutes of glorious madness.
Tipp could have won it, Cork had it, and then it was anyone’s. Five goal chances inside the last six minutes, with three converted, only begins to tell this tale.
As it is, it’s three points apiece at the top of the Munster SHC table, with it all to play for as the heat goes up a few notches by the weekend.
Alan Tynan produced an incredible display for a man still developing his hurling after years devoted to rugby.
His scoring, his powerful running, bravery, and attitude were what’s been missing from Tipperary these past three seasons, but he was not alone.
Mark Kehoe has surely now done enough to claiming a starting spot after his performance, while Dan McCormack and several others showed their value.
Declan Dalton wasn’t even involved last year under Kieran Kingston, but he looks to have hit a new level of conditioning and is revelling is a deeper forward role.
Tim O’Mahony, Conor Lehane, Brian Hayes and Shane Kingston all performed well off the bench, while there was a gallant recovery all-round when Tipp looked to be headed for victory more than once during that second half.
Cork could have had the game out of sight inside a frenetic opening five minutes.
Patrick Horgan and Brian Roche both had goal opportunities that didn’t come off, before Dalton soloed in to bat an effort to the net just after.
Jason Forde had knocked over a free for the visitors on two minutes but otherwise his side were all at sea.
Throughout the history of this rivalry, free-flowing hurling, and allowing each other to hurl, has been this duo’s calling card.
Due to the pace on the Rebels side, the open nature of the game was suiting the hosts.
When the game settled down after those opening five minutes or so, Tipperary took over the flow; from their point of view, a steadier stream of play allowed them more time to pick off Cork.
The Rebel puckout was turned over a couple of times for the brilliant Seamus Kennedy and Tynan to profit, while dispossessions on Robbie O’Flynn and wins in rucks allowed scores for Sean Ryan and Gearoid O’Connor (free).
Between the ninth and 25th minutes, Tipp completely lorded proceedings with a run of 0-10 to 0-1.
In between, Ronan Maher was fortunate to not be shown a red card for shouldering Darragh Fitzgibbon into the head, while on the other side Tynan was somehow not given a free 30 yards out after being tripped by Tommy O’Connell.
Both sides could feel aggrieved with certain decisions, and the loss of Forde to a hamstring injury — with Kehoe coming on — presented a further challenge to the visitors.
For too long, Tipp have been relying on long balls and hoping for the best, but often they popped that extra pass around the middle sector before delivering quality ball inside. It was working a treat.
Against the grain and under pressure, Cork found a way back into the game.
Horgan split the posts twice to bring his troops back to within four points, before the latest key moment of the half came during injury time.
Tipperary had a sideline cut deep inside their own half, which they saw intercepted for O’Flynn to drive into the heart of the penalty area.
The Erin’s Own made rode three tackles — perhaps overcarrying — before batting it past Barry Hogan to reduce the arrears to 2-6 to 0-13; unfortunately, the forward immediately had to go off with a hamstring injury.
No matter, a Cork attack that had managed just four scores from play in the first half still went on to rack up ten after the break, and showed steel.
Pat Ryan’s team had won games from behind during the league when all seemed lost (Limerick, Wexford) and it will be immensely encouraging for the Sarsfields man to see that trait continue into the championship.
Points carried them across the line against Waterford last week, whereas it was goals this time.
Tipperary were flawed during their win over Clare but the key was ending a six-game losing run in the championship.
A draw when leading for the majority of the game will be a blow, but coming away with something is still to their credit.
There is more to come from Kehoe, Bowe has more quality that today’s showing suggests, while Jake Morris will be back among the goals soon if his form continues.
Seamus Callanan might have won the game late on when he had a chance to score a 40th ever championship goal, but Patrick Collins denied him superbly.
John McGrath and Dalton each could have won the game with frees from long range, but a share of the spoils felt about right.
Either side could yet have a huge say in this championship.